On December 2, 2012 I had the pleasure to coordinate the Guitar Orchestra for the NYC Regional Symposium of the Guitar Foundation of America. The symposium was hosted at the DiMenna Center by the New York City Classical Guitar Society for the GFA.
In addition to coordinating the players, setting up the rehearsal, attending to the needs of the conductor and composer Andrew York, I would somehow manage to pick up an additional, and quite unexpected responsibility.
Mr. York very much wanted to have an electric bass player to “fill out the low end” of the orchestra’s sound. I tried my best to find a bass player who was available in NYC for the gig. After failing to find a bass guitar player on short notice, I started searching for an electric bass in the hope that someone in the orchestra would be willing to play it. Since no one in the orchestra volunteered, I became a bass player by default. That was the day of the show.
At the last minute I did find a bass to borrow, offered by Jessica Bowers, a fabulous mezzo-soprano who plays bass for fun occasionally. There was one problem – it was a left handed bass. I thought that playing bass for the first time ever on a large concert with only an hour of rehearsal was going to be a stretch, but doing so on a left handed bass would be an even greater challenge. But it was the only option to satisfy the composer’s needs.
Luckily, at the last moment a right handed bass was donated to the group for use. (Relief!) So I read the part in rehearsal and in the concert that evening, playing bass for the very first time.
Watch the video of the concert here.
Even though the part was not too challenging, it really impressed upon me the importance of learning musical skills. The ability to sightread, follow a conductor, read in different clefs, and play in an ensemble were all necessary for me to be able to do this at the last minute – especially as I was distracted by all the other duties I had while playing an instrument I had never before used. (I do admit it is similar to the guitar.)
It is for this reason that I believe it is so much more important to teach my students musical skill than solely teaching them to play individual pieces of music. You never know when something will come up last minute, and the skills to do things on short notice is absolutely essential for anyone who is considering a career in music.